Sunday, July 9, 2017

Dateline: July 2017, Rome - A land flowing with . . . garbage

Sad but true, flowing in garbage.  Ok, not all garbage, actually garbage and recycle.  Well, at least depending on the day of the week.  Picture Manhattan when there was a garbage collector’s strike years ago.  Or simply picture it below.  Substantially everyone lives in an apartment building.  Garbage, including recycle is centralized throughout the city.  Everyone pays a garbage tax for the privilege of walking out to the street, across the street or down the street to dispose of their garbage (or you can drop off garbage as you drive by – tough luck for the cars that will inevitably be stopped behind you because there is too much traffic to drive around you).  

I recently paid the garbage tax for a “villa”, our Church’s mission home in Rome that houses the mission president who is responsible for all the young and not so young missionaries.  The villa houses two people except for 3 nights every six weeks when there are missionaries coming or going.  On those occasions, there could be an extra 8-20 people.  The garbage tax, based on square footage, is a mere 2,200 euros per year, so about US $200 per month.  In Colorado you could get better service for under $40 per month. 

I haven’t been attentive enough to know what days garbage is collected.  I was told  it is collected daily but I don’t know how accurate that is.  Some days the garbage bins look like this.

Other times (a day later), the garbage bins look like this.  

Now the curious thing is that the day I took the first picture above, I carefully ventured over and opened two of the non-recycle garbage bins.  They were no more than 20% full.  So, what’s with all the garbage piled up in front of the bins?  I cannot give an accurate answer.  There are several possibilities. 

One possibility is that the bins were all full and people left their garbage/recycle on the ground.  Then, the trucks came and emptied the containers but their job does not entail and in fact they may not be permitted to pick up any garbage off the street – unions have significant pull here.  I have heard support for this theory from one of the other senior missionaries. 

Another theory is that Romans want to create and maintain jobs through every possible means.  So, people leave their garbage on the ground knowing that the city will hire or continue to employ people to clean up the garbage left on the ground.  This theory goes hand in hand with the theory that Italians perpetuate every possible inefficiency to maintain or create jobs. 

An additional theory is that Romans are slobs who don’t care about beauty and cleanliness.  The symbol of Rome is Remus and Romulus and the she-wolf – if that is not a story you are familiar with, check it out on google.  Underneath the symbol are the letters SPQR.  An old, not so kind joke is that the letters stand for “sono porchi questi romani” which is interpreted, these romans are pigs. 

I prefer to think that one of the first two explanations is accurate. 

How does the garbage then get tossed into the bins?  There are street sweeping personnel, independent of the garbage bin personnel, who come and clean up.  Regardless of how they look on any given day, I hold my breath as I walk by.